SYDNEY – David Warner walked off mid-innings in a Sydney grade game after “hurtful” comments from the brother of ex-Test teammate Phillip Hughes, who died in 2014 after being hit by a ball, his wife claimed on Sunday.
The former Australia vice-captain, who is serving a 12-month ban from international and state cricket for his role in a ball-tampering scandal, was batting for his club Randwick-Petersham at the time on Saturday.
He left the field on 35, but returned shortly afterwards following the intervention of teammates, and went on to score a majestic 157.
Candice Warner said Jason Hughes – the brother of Phillip, whose tragic death rocked the sporting world – was the culprit.
“Look, I’m not going to go into the details. However, David was taken aback by the comments and thought they went a little bit too far, so he decided to remove himself from the game,” she told Channel Nine.
Cricket Australia’s website claimed that what started as goading from Hughes soon turned personal and Warner – who has a fierce on-field reputation – decided to leave before it escalated.
Sydney’s Daily Telegraph alleged that Hughes called Warner “a disgrace” and “weak”, and claimed one witness heard a direct reference to Phillip Hughes’ death.
But Hughes’ club Western Suburbs denied any abuse was hurled and defended him.
“There was no barrage of sledges aimed at David Warner by any WSDCC player,” it said in a statement.
“There was a brief exchange between Jason Hughes and David Warner. This exchange had nothing to do with Phil Hughes.
“This exchange was not vicious or abusive as alleged in some sections of the media.”
The umpires lodged no report about player behaviour, but Warner’s wife insisted the comments were in the abuse category.
“He removed himself firstly because he didn’t like what he was hearing and where that could’ve been taken. It was hurtful, very hurtful,” she said.
Randwick-Petersham first-grade manager Bill Anderson told The Telegraph that Warner felt the comments were “very offensive to him”.
“But he realised that he had to play. He turned around and back out he went,” he said.
“He wasn’t teary. But you could tell he had been quite affected by that. It wasn’t a heated exchange. It was something said in close range.”
Warner was fielding on November 25, 2014, when Phillip Hughes was struck by a bouncer bowled by Sean Abbott during a Sheffield Shield match at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Hughes, 25, later died from bleeding on the brain, sparking an outpouring of grief.
At the inquest, Warner said Hughes had been one of his “closest mates”, and he missed him every day.
Warner, along with Steve Smith, was sent home in disgrace and banned over the tampering scandal during the third Test in South Africa in March.
He was blamed as the instigator of the incident in which Cameron Bancroft attempted to alter the ball with a piece of yellow sandpaper.
Two reviews prompted by the scandal – one focusing on the culture within Cricket Australia and the other into the team – are due to be released on Monday.AFP